Poems and Slime

Slime is a thing. Slime mold can make maps.

As this is National Novel Writing Month I wanted to present you with some writing advice. It has to do with reading but you can apply it to writing.

Take the Time to Read Out Loud from The Write Nook 

And here’s Anne Lamott’s NaNoWriMo Pep Talk

Over the last few weeks/months I’ve been drawn to poems about places and poems about animals. This is what I want to turn into. Something that travels through and is traveled through. One day I hope to return to the ground. And the ocean.

The Rats by Keetje Kuipers

Gaman: Topaz Concentration Camp, Utah by Kenji C. Liu

East River and The Ghetto by Lola Ridge

The Belladonna of Sadness by Sally Wen Mao

Not Everybody’s Bestiary (Yet) by Rebecca Morgan Frank

If You’re Going to Look Like a Wolf They Have to Love You More Than They Fear You by Abigail Chabitnoy

Ghazal IV by Bojan Louis

Łčíčšeʔ by Heather Cahoon 

Quantum Foam by Elizabeth Jacobson

And I just LOVE the format of this poem. You will see poems like this from me in the future.

Countdown as Slow Kisses by Michael Wasson

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Photo by Krystal Ng on Unsplash

Decomposition

A body says, “Hello.” Another body does not reply. A body says, “Hello.” Again. Another body does not reply. A body walks into a bad joke. A body feels like a bad joke. A body tries to tell a bad joke to another body and another body walks away. A body has breakfast alone. A body skips lunch alone. A body has coffee alone. A body has dinner alone. A body says, “Loneliness is not the unyielding force but the soft buoyancy of humid air that no one else can see.” A body says, “Loneliness is not the story locked in the past but the inability to explain what happened.” Or the inability to find someone who will listen. A body says, “Loneliness is trying as hard as you can but still failing because (insert your beliefs about failing here).” A body sees. A body tastes. A body touches. A body feels the memories a body doesn’t want to feel. A body blocks them out. A body smothers them with a crashing wave. A body pounds them into the ground and refuses to let them breathe even for one second. A body can’t let them breathe for even a second. A body hears a body’s fist connect with what a body cannot kill. A body smells a body’s blood. A body wonders how a body got hurt when a body was supposed to be inflicting all the hurt, all the punishment.

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Photo by Laura Briedis on Unsplash

Gatekeeping in Anglo-Saxon Literature, Musical Traditions, and Lots and LOTS of Poems

Here’s a really captivating article about J.R.R. Tolkein’s scholarship on the Old English epic poem Beowulf and how the white gaze predominates medieval literature.

Book Recommendation: The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison. Includes her essay “Grendel and His Mother.”

Margaret Atwood on The Testaments, the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale.

And now…lots of poems…

The Gardner by Nancy Botta at Rusted Honey

Close Reading by Brandon Som

You Say You Said by Marianne Moore

“An Apocryphal History of the Discovery of Migration, or The Sacrifice of the Pfeilstörchen” by Alba Cid, translated by Jacob Rogers

Ideology by Aria Aber

Cloth Birds by Dorothy Tse

The Convert Wants Wounds, Not Scars by Melody S. Gee

River to River by Hai-Dang Phan

A gorgeous haiku from Lize Bard of Haiku out of Africa

Getting a little Biblical now: a poem to Noah’s wife by Maya C. Popa

And my poem for Noah’s wife…

After the Flood

While Noah’s sighs polluted the ruddy beach

littered with the bones of heretics,

their livestock and their predators;

while he thanked God for the early warning,

the strong timber, and exclusion

from the slaughtered multitude

his women walked around him like he was just another corpse,

bobbing and rooting around piles of driftwood and soggy cloth,

picking out the useful things.

I wrote this way back in 2009 after visiting an art exhibition depicting a life sized Noah, drawn in charcoal, assessing the damage of God’s Wrath while looking picturesquely helpless and out of sorts while women scavenged through the rubble behind him. I can’t remember who the artist was.

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Photo by Jessica Furtney on Unsplash

While Writing The Echo of Something Hitting

I was waking up at 4:30 a.m., cursing my alarm clock. Awake before dawn, cold, sick/hungover, I’d trudge to the bus stop with frost crunching beneath my boots to get to work. It was an hour long bus ride if the traffic was good. I used that time on the bus to read and write poetry. I earned my MFA, start to finish, on that bus. Crossing the lines, riding over the river, circling the familiar pathways.

But before the bus was the dead kitten. My anchor.

See, while I was thinking about my graduating thesis, my “masterwork” of poems I was walking to the bus stop. A rooster crowed. There was fog, there was sleet, there was ice and the wet cold soaked into my marrow. My bag was too heavy with books and not heavy enough with food. I didn’t have enough alcohol/I had too much.

There was this image in my head of this ghost-woman under the foggy streetlight but that wasn’t reality. She was orange and I thought she was my speaker, the thread that would connect everything in my collection, but she wasn’t. I don’t know where she’s gone now. Maybe she wasn’t real to begin with.

I know she wasn’t real because the poems didn’t feel real. They weren’t working. I was stuck.

And then I was walking to the bus stop and there, in the grey concrete gutter at the edge of the dark, early morning road, was the dead kitten. Nothing ate it and its body was frozen. I walked by that little broken body for a MONTH and watched it get flatter and flatter, the fur and skin seemed to be dissolving into the road, the bones were sinking, slowly, into the concrete.

It was like the road was eating the body since none of the carrion feeders would touch it. It was too cold for the insects. Most insects.

And that made me think about borders and barriers and bodies dying on the road. Animal bodies, human bodies. There are borders between countries, borders between places within countries, borders between roads and rivers, roads and houses, roads and bodies.

I began to explore those places.

And then in the spring a flash flood killed my car. My most loyal, bestest friend in the world. We’d been on so many adventures together and I cried when I had to turn him (yes, him) in to the dealership. More debt, more stress. More mistakes made with the man who is now my ex-husband. I wrote the Echo of Something Hitting because I needed to tell myself specific things about the way I was living that I could not see. Rather, my sub-conscious/my reptilian brain needed to tell me. Go look back at your old poems and see if there’s something you might have realized sooner than you thought.

I began to explore those places too. The flood and transformation. Transformation from catastrophe. (As far as catastrophes go it was a small one but the water sloshing over my boots and then the firemen pushing my car out of the road, all of them wearing grey shirts and water up to their thighs, frolicking in the water like otters. Sadly, I couldn’t figure out how to put them into the book. If any of you are reading this now, all these years later, thank you.)

There’s lots of bird imagery, lots of water imagery, lots of grey. The kitten was grey.

(I tell people my favorite color is green but I think, secretly, it is grey. Grey and the weird pink/periwinkle/grey of some ballet slippers. Is it okay to have more than one favorite color? I don’t mean to imply in any way that green is inferior. I really like green.)

I’m running out of things to say about the book. It began as a collection of poems but as I wrote about the kitten and the road and the river the borders of the poems dissolved and it became what I like to think of as a “lyric essay.”

I got my degree in Cross-Genre and Hybrid Poetry. Hybrid is where prose and lines blend and mutate like sick proteins but they’re not sick. Things unfold and knot up. Things flow freely but they also flicker and disappear. Think deep sea fish and you’re good. The Cross-Genre is not merging “romance” and “fantasy.” Where I went to school, genres were prose and poetics. Genres were how you actually wrote, not what you wrote about.

So a lyric essay, to me, is formatted like an epic poem but has zero meter, too many long pauses, random chunks of prose that float like globules of crude oil in the ocean–they’re soft, not like plastic–

Here’s an article from the Los Angeles Review of Books about lyric essays…and how they can be…banal…(awesome selling point).

The Writer’s Alliance of Gainesville says, “Writing the lyric essay offers the author a frolic in the pool of memoir, biography, poetry and personal essay mixed with a sprinkling of experimental.

What is interesting?

What is over-the-top batshit crazy?

What is self-important pontification?

Maybe it’s all those things. But I feel that poetry is WAY more than just verse and form. Poetry is more than lines and stanzas, more than meter, rhyme, and syllable counts. I guess you could say that lyric essay is the ultimate free verse but free verse is already free verse so…I’m rambling now. I should end this post.

I wanted to say all that because I want to get back into poetry. I want to start working on another poetry collection, one that’s been hanging out in my head since 2007, like dust piling up in the corners.

You can find The Echo of Something Hitting for free download on iTunes, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and several other places that give good homes to free ebooks.

The Echo of Something Hitting is a hybrid, cross-genre, lyric essay that explores the transformative journey from disaster into survival; an imagined life after death. Becoming something new within the language of roads, rivers, and storms, the text decomposes and reforms to escape the boundaries of words.

Fans of Catherynne M. Valente’s The Labyrinth and Bhanu Kapil’s Incubation: A Space for Monsters will enjoy this handful of words.

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Photo by Imthaz Ahamed on Unsplash

Liger Signal Boost, Old Rhymes, Boats, and a Girl

SIGNAL BOOST!!!!!

I’ve been a long-time supporter of Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge and at the end of August, Brady Liger fell ill to a fungal infection. If you can donate something, anything at all, please consider supporting their efforts. Your donations can help pay for medical expenses, food, and bigger enclosures for the animals.

And here are two writerly things I’m going to try to take advantage of this September. The first is my local library’s Banned Books Writing Contest and the second is an international open call for submissions from the Black Library and the Warhammer 40K Universe.

Musings on coffee and other things from stoneronarollercoaster

Jamaica Kincaid’s Girl

“Farewell” is on my tongue by Paulus Silentarius, translated by William Roger Paton

A Play-by-Play of Queer Seduction by Marisa Crane on Chantarelle’s Notebook

The Past by Ralph Waldo Emerson

[we are] by Quentin Baker

Vesuvius by Noah Eli Gordon

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Photo source: turpentinecreek.org

Mirror Angels

My reflections and I

plot the points of our knees

like stars scratched in the floor,

we can’t hold summer

in our flimsy hands.

I lean my head against the point where two mirrors join together in a museum exhibit and suddenly I am one girl split into three. This is educational. This is sacred division. I whisper softly to us but they don’t answer my prayers for rescue, escape. I can only mimic their arms with my arms and I cannot decipher the secret within our bodies.

The rough stars

join constellations

Gaping-Mouth-of-Disbelief

with Grinning-Face-

That-is-Not-a-Face.

I look into the mirrors and there are girls who wear my face but not my memories. I look into the mirrors, I look at us and I am so happy that at least some of us are free. When I stand they turn their backs to me and greet their secret, intangible worlds. I cannot go with them when I walk away.

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This poem was first published in Atlas Poetica in 2015 and republished in Girl + Muse.

Photo by Serrah Galos on Unsplash.

In the Voice of My Poetry

My poetry is about finding lost things.

If drinking makes you sick, don’t drink.

Find a clean puddle and dip your cup in that; drink the moon on the water.

My grandmother never wanted my grandfather to leave (he was an alcoholic). She had one sister who thought she was prettier than everyone else. Her grave has dead plants on it. And pink marble.

My poetry is about falling across the road as a bloody smear and making a new boundary, a new border.

My poetry is about an imaginary map.

I was born alone.

Wild roses are my favorite.

My poetry is about rotting and returning to the earth.

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This post is inspired by Bhanu Kapil’s Blog

Photo by Felipe Santana on Unsplash